Honda Fireblade Launch: First Impressions
Senior Road Tester Adam ‘Chad’ Child is out in Portimao getting a first taste of Honda’s all new CBR1000RR Fireblade.
Across the day, we’ll be riding both the ‘RR’ standard version and SP model, with the SP2 model not set to go into production (with the exception of a few lucky race teams) until this Spring.
10:01 – First session on standard bike done!
It’s a lot smaller than the old one, both in how it feels and the actual dimensions. You could get really tucked in on the old one whereas this one feels more like the size of a 600. Good throttle delivery, good power – the delivery is really linear. We’ve only ridden on the base settings so far, you can feel the traction working and it comes in with quite a kick onto the start finish and over the back where you come over the crest, so we need to work on that.
It feels like a Blade, but a smaller Blade. It’s not intimidating at all, the last bike I rode here was a Panigale and I’ve done a BMW here too and they were really ‘woaaaah’, but this is quite easy and manageable, so far anyway!
Something else you notice is just how different the bike sounds, especially when you’re stood in pit lane and there are bikes going past on track. It’s got a completely different exhaust note, it sounds great even with the standard pipes.
11:14 – Second session, testing the TC! (Standard model)
We turned the torque control (not traction control!) down a little bit for the second session as it was kicking in a bit early for us in the first session. I made a mistake on lap five or six, the back broke away and at the point where I thought 'right that's gone a bit too far now' it automatically corrected itself. It was all controlled by the bike, not by me. Now I know where the limit is, I can lean on that and push it a bit harder. We're on standard suspension and standard tyres so it's going to be great for punters out of the crate, but now we're upping the pace we're getting to the limits of the stock suspension and stock tyres, so it'll be interesting to see how we get on with the slicks and electronic suspension with the SP later on.
With the undulations of this track, when you hit one at the bottom the shock is sitting on the bottom of the stroke and it's then pushing the tyre. It's still really impressive. It feels so small, we're hitting 170mph at the end of the straight and I'm still not braking late enough.
12:19 – Session 3 - CBR1000RR SP on slicks
We headed out on the SP with Bridgestone slicks. It’s the same power and torque but a little bit lighter than the standard model. Initially in the first two laps when you’re scrubbing in the slicks it feels a little bit alien because you haven’t got that movement from conventional suspension because it’s semi-active and in a track mode, but once you get going and start winding up the pace it gives you a bit more support.
Here at Portimao there are corners where you’ll come up through a rise, then down and then into another rise and this keeps the main body of the bike in a more stable position. It gives you the confidence to go just that little bit harder. The traction isn’t as intrusive, you don’t feel the bike moving too much especially on these slicks. The great thing about semi-active suspension is that you can adjust it on the dash. Honda have tried to move away from terminology like compression, rebound and pre-load so instead we’re working on settings for braking, cornering and acceleration. You can work individually on the set up for each of those areas. We’ve got a longer session this afternoon in which we’ll try and play around with these settings to understand them a bit more.
15:13 – Session 4 - Testing the SP's semi-active suspension
We’ve just done a big 45-minute session on the SP with Ohlins semi-active suspension. I’m properly struggling for words, I was really pushing on in the last four laps and enjoying it. It’s so impressive. You have to forget about compression, rebound and pre-load as Honda have simplified it. If you feel you need better support in braking, you go into your suspension settings and you have plus and minus, so you can increase or decrease your engine braking. There’s another setting for cornering, if you want to corner faster you increase it, if you want to corner slower you decrease it. Then there’s acceleration, which again you can increase or decrease. It’s obviously about compromise; we went really high with the braking support but that added too much braking support which stopped the bike steering and I was running wide.
I came into the pits six or seven times in the 45 minutes and every time we changed something I could feel what had changed. You get more and more confident with the bike as you dial the settings in to something you are comfortable with. Unfortunately, my day is over at the moment, but I’m hoping to blag a ride in the other group’s final session!